mouth! No mouth, and no chin, and that was exactly what he was trying to hide by wearing that rag whose color and pattern I no longer remember.
    He passed by me quite closely. I did not dare look at him, and thus I don’t know if he looked at me.
    But I heard, quite clearly, this sentence: “I am so sorry about that.” That was what I heard him say, in a voice that was uncommonly toneless, almost a mere whisper. No telling whether his words were addressed specifically to me. And how was he speaking? How can a person speak without a mouth?
    I entertain this faint hope that I may meet this person again, that he will walk toward me on some street or road, Kyoto’s Philosophers’ Lane or some prosperous shopping street crowded with people looking for new clothes, or on this narrow sandy road on the coast of the Gulf of Finland where I now live, a road that leads to a forgotten harbor. Half-decayed birches line this road, caterpillar writings on their bark.
    Now it is fall again, and I receive a message from Hiroko:
    “The slopes are already protected by rustling leaves that
    shrink and disintegrate into sandy dust.”

    Perhaps some time soon I’ll see that thin figure again, perhaps he’ll stop in front of me this time. Then I can ask him what it was he felt so sorry about. Is it because of his own fate, or mine, or is he sorry for us all, all of humanity.

Translated from the Finnish by Anselm Hollo


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